On Saturday, I received a query from Huffington Post Live about appearing today on a panel discussion titled Too Old to Run? Circumstances prevented my participation but not my consideration of the question.
[NOTE: You can see the live discussion on HuffPost from 1PM to 1:30PM eastern U.S. time (10AM - 10:30AM Pacific) by clicking this link where the segment will be archived too for future viewing.]
The idea for the discussion on Huffpost came about from a story at The Atlantic website titled “Senator Frank Lautenberg is Too Old to Run for Reelection” written by Conor Friedersdorf.
A sampling of Friedersdorf's indictment of the New Jersey senator:
”He'd be starting a new term while fifteen years older than the average life-expectancy for American males. What are the odds he'd survive in adequate health until 2020?...
“...don't candidates owe their constituents the promise that, to the best of their ability to estimate, they'll be capable of finishing the job?
“At what point should voters consider age in general?...
“New Jersey Supreme Court justices must retire at 70.”
Well, I dunno – what were the odds of John F. Kennedy surviving until 1964? And New Jersey justices may be forced to retire, but U.S. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. They may choose to retire, but they are otherwise expected to serve until the end.
I don't buy the death argument at all. Congress and the states deal with accidents, illnesses, resignations and deaths all the time.
In fact, since 1960, at least 34 senators have died in office and the republic did not fall.
If we were to seriously consider term limits for Congress members, what age should be the cutoff? How would that decision be arrived at? Who would make the decision?
Let us keep in mind, as we often state here, that people age at dramatically different rates. Capabilities at a given year of the far end of life are wildly individual and not the same.
I see no reason to mandate age limits and you never know, the country might even gain from some old-age-related wisdom if some elder pols hang around Congress beyond an expiration date set by an uninformed pundit.
What do you think?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Meryl Baer: No Class and Am I Crazy?